McConnell Pretends to Defer to House on Impeachment Evidence

McConnell continues to fight a two-front war against a broader impeachment trial. Photo: Alex Edelman/Getty Images

In his ongoing effort to keep a lid on the pending Senate impeachment trial, Mitch McConnell went to the floor Tuesday morning to defend his rejection of Chuck Schumer’s proposal to call four witnesses: acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, former national security adviser John Bolton, senior adviser to the acting White House chief of staff Robert Blair, and Office of Management and Budget official Michael Duffey. These witnesses had previously been blocked by the White House in the House impeachment proceedings. CNN has the story:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, addressing Senate Democrats’ request for witness testimony during the possible impeachment trial, said the Senate is not the place to investigate.

The House is the legislative body that is tasked with building the case against the President, he said. 

“If they fail, they fail. It’s not the Senate’s job to leap into the breach and search desperately for ways to get to guilty. That would hardly be impartial justice,” McConnell said.

Directly addressing Schumer’s proposal, McConnell taunted House Democrats for doing a poor job of fact-finding, without mentioning the White House obstruction that (a) made it impossible, and (b) was the basis for one of the two articles of impeachment that the Senate will soon attempt:

“The fact that my colleague is already desperate to sign up the Senate for new fact finding — which House Democrats themselves were too impatient to see through — well, that suggests something to me,” McConnell said. “It suggests that even Democrats who do not like this President are beginning to realize how dramatically insufficient the house’s rushed process has been …”

“Well, look, I hope the House of Representatives sees that too. If House Democrats’ case is this deficient, this thin, the answer is not for the judge and jury to cure it over here in the Senate. The answer is the house should not impeach on this basis in the first place.”

McConnell made one argument that raised a lot of eyebrows:

[W]hy does the Democratic leader here in the Senate want to predetermine the House impeachment managers’ witness request for them before the House has even impeached the president? Might he just be coordinating these questions with people outside the Senate?

This is pretty rich coming from the Senate leader who recently announced he was in “total coordination” with the White House in terms of how the impeachment trial will be conducted.

Schumer quickly responded by noting that trials feature witnesses not heard in grand jury sessions — the criminal-justice analogue of House impeachment proceedings — and asking what “they [McConnell and the president] are afraid the witnesses will say?” And he introduced the term “cover-up” to this discussion of the scope of the Senate trial:

The American people are fair. They don’t want a cover-up. They don’t want concealment.

Schumer, of course, understands that he has some strange bedfellows in talking about a Senate trial that hears new witnesses: the House Republicans who want the Senate to call a whole host of people (both Bidens, the “whistle-blower,” Adam Schiff, Alexandra Chalupa, etc., etc.) allegedly involved in the various Democrat/deep state conspiracies they claim have been cooked up to overturn Trump’s 2016 election. The president reportedly likes that idea, too, and McConnell has been quietly trying to get POTUS to let him just secure the inevitable acquittal without drama, much less a “circus.”

So there’s a lot of tactical maneuvering going on here; surely Schumer doesn’t want a wide-open trial in which Joe Biden is in the dock and a number of his 2020 rivals are stuck in Washington as senatorial “jurors” in an extended trial. But there’s nothing in the air much more cynical than McConnell pretending to show respect for the Democratic House’s distinctive role in the impeachment process. He wants a quick trial to maintain his own control over his conference and to head off demands from every direction that would make the event compelling TV. Mitch McConnell just wants to put impeachment to bed.

McConnell Pretends to Defer to House on Impeachment Evidence